When trying to predict who the Philadelphia Eagles may select in the 2013 NFL Draft, a key component to look for in a prospective player is versatility. Basically, keep an eye on players who have the ability to line-up and produce from more than just one position.
This is the first draft of the Chip Kelly era so we have no past history to analyze for trends and habits. Hell, in order to get some kind of feel for what Kelly may do, I looked at 36 drafts conducted by 12 college coaches who jumped to the NFL just to see how many of them drafted former players.
My goal was to get an idea of how common it was for college coaches to draft any of their former players to possibly get an idea if Kelly would be more or less likely to draft Dion Jordan and/or Kyle Long, Oregon’s two-best prospects coming out this year.
While there were a few interesting nuggets garnered from that, obviously it can’t truly predict what Kelly will do.
However, if you’ve listened to things Kelly has said in regards to players, you’ll know that he seems to emphasize versatile players. Here is a quote from Kelly, courtesy of Les Bowen:
“I think the versatility that you can present to defenses is when you have a certain grouping in a game, that’s not only one thing you can do . . . when you watch the Patriots line up Aaron Hernandez all over the place, is he going to be at tight end, is he going to be at receiver, is he going to be at running back, it makes it very difficult for the defense. They don’t know at the beginning of the play where people are going to line up and what they’re going to do. It keeps them on their toes.
“We want guys who can do that. You really get pigeonholed when you have one dimensional players, and when you do, it makes it a little bit easier for defenses to go out there and understand what’s going to go on in certain formations.”
In this case, he is referring to the offense and in particular, James Casey. However, the same philosophy will apply on the defensive side as well.
In addition to being versatile, Kelly also prefers players with size that are also athletic. Again, here are a couple of quotes:
“It’s a big man’s game and if you can get big, athletic guys who can run, it’s our job as a coaching staff to put them in position to make plays.” ~ Chip Kelly
“We want taller, longer people because big people beat up little people.” ~ Chip Kelly
These are our best clues as to what the Eagles will be looking for in the draft. Then, if you take these traits and apply them to players at positions you think the team will most likely address, we should get an even better idea of who might be future Eagles.
Above all else, though, I think versatility will be the main key. Kelly is a match-up master on offense and the defense he wants to utilize screams for versatile front-7 players.
Size and athleticism will be given serious weight in their projections and may act as somewhat of tie-breakers if they are trying to decide between a few different players at a given draft slot of position.
However, for players in the secondary, I think size, athleticism and physicality may override versatility to a certain degree. Versatility is more of a key component for the front-7 on defense and for offensive players.
With all this said, I’ve attempted to compile a list of players that meet these criterion and could be on the Eagles’ radar in the first two rounds of the draft…
*Note: I’m not saying the Eagles will be in a position to draft these players, but rather they fit the mold and play at a position I think Kelly will consider. Plus, the Eagles are notorious for trading up and down in the draft.
DE/OLB Dion Jordan – Fits every category (versatile, big, athletic)
DT Star Lotulelei – Can play any position along the line, has size, but not overly athletic
OT Eric Fisher – Big, athletic and can play right or left tackle, possibly even some guard
OT Lane Johnson – Best athlete at OT position and is just as versatile as Fisher
CB Dee Milliner - Good size, athleticism and physicality
CB Xavier Rhodes – Excellent size, athleticism and physicality (Kelly may prefer over Milliner)
DT Sheldon Richardson – Athletic enough that he was occasionally dropped into coverage!
WR Tavon Austin – Very small player, but is a multi-dimensional player Kelly would love
S Kenny Vaccaro – Can cover, hit, tackle and is capable of playing free or strong safety
TE Tyler Eifert – Big, athletic offensive weapon Kelly could use in a variety of ways
DT Sylvester Williams – Big, athletic, can play multiple positions along the line
DT Jesse Williams – Versatile, would play NT and 5-tech
DE Margus Hunt – Great size and great athlete, would be excellent DE in 3-4 front
S Jonathan Cyprien – Same qualities as Vaccaro but maybe more physical
S Eric Reid – Good size, speed and physicality, but coverage ability is in question
TE Zach Ertz – Another versatile offensive weapon Kelly would love to line-up all over the place
OT Kyle Long – Big, athletic and projects to play either inside or out
I left out quarterbacks because this isn’t really a good class and they’re graded on different levels than all other positions. However, if you want to think of a “versatile” QB — someone who could potentially be a traditional QB or read-option QB — I’d have to go with Geno Smith, Zac Dysert and Ryan Nassib.
But, Kelly could opt for guys like E.J. Manuel or Matt Scott who would seem to be better suited strictly for a read-option offense.
Anyway, I believe all of these players will be under heavy consideration, ultimately depending on where they end up picking come draft day. If they stay at their current positions in rounds one and two of the draft (No. 4 and No. 35), the list of players would look more like this (based on current projections of where a player may get taken)…
Round 1: Jordan, Lotulelei, Fisher, Johnson, Milliner
Round 2: Hunt, Ertz, J. Williams, Cyprien, Long
Notable names left off of list: Luke Joeckel, Sharrif Floyd, Chance Warmack, Ziggy Ansah, and Jarvis Jones. They are good players, but I see the other guys as being more of what Kelly would prefer.
Any players you would add or remove from this list? Let me know…and let me know why!